Black Phantom Tetra is red not black in the wild

Byron

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Practical Fishkeeping contains an article on the Black Phantom Tetra, Hyphessobrycon megalopterus (Eigenmann, 1915), in the latest edition. I'll put the link to the article below; the video is worth viewing. The author, Tai Strietman, writes that this species in the wild is red, not black, and the fish in the video seem to bear this out, at least for this specific location which is the Salobra river of Mato Grosso do Sul in the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil.

As indicated in the article, decades ago when the fish was first imported, it was bred to be black. The black form does not seem to exist in the wild. Flavio Lima, an eminent authority on the Characidae family, confirms that he has caught specimens of this species that have somewhat greater darkness, and it may be surmised that such "darker" fish may have been the source for the black breeding.

I have never come across this fact in any of the sources for information on this species. Gery, Weitzman, Baensch & Riehl (authors of the excellent five volume set Aquarium Atlas), and other icthyologists active during the 20th and early 21st centuries do not to my knowledge mention this anywhere. I have not been able to find (online) the 1915 description of this species by Eigenmann to see what if anything he reported as to the colour of the species.

So my natural instinct was to question the people who know on the characin FB site. Within minutes I was in communication with the author who is also a member. His supervisor for his thesis is not only an acknowledged authority on the Characidae family, but the principle taxonomic expert on the genus Hyphessobrycon, Fernando R. Carvalho. Dr. Carvalho has authored singly or jointly more than 60 scientific studies/articles on fish. When I mentioned to Tai that earlier writers don't seem to have mentioned this, he said that was a good point and he would raise it with Dr. Carvalho.

BTW, the majority of red fish in the video are Hyphessobrycon eques, the Serpae or Red Minor Tetra, which is related to the subject species, but if you are observant you will see several "Black Phantoms" that are clearly shoaling with the H. eques, another interesting fact.

 

Ch4rlie

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I enjoyed reading about those phantom tetras and also watching that clip, thank you for sharing that gem.

Must say I am rather taken by the lovely red colouration of those "black" phantoms, I have never been a huge fan of black phantoms when i see those in LFS as they don't really appeal to me but if i see anhy of those red phantoms then certainly worth a second look imho.

I do not know particularly much about Characidae so cannot offer much of an opinion of this sadly but still a very interesting read.

Also must stress its really nice seeing the fish behaviours in larger shoals in the wild as that clip showed, some complex heirachy going on and shoaling behaviour due to several different specie actually shoaling together, certainly compared to just having 6-12 tetras in a small tank the behaviour is vastly different.

This kind of proves the point that more numbers of a certain single species will be far more beneficial than mixing 2 or 3 species in smaller numbers in an aquarium and also much more appealing to me to see one larger shoal to be fair.

This reminded me of when I saw a video when I first started the hobby years back and this clip showed the behaviour of cories in the wild and they shoal in the hundreds if not the thousands naturally and the shoaling behaviour of those compared to tank cories in 6+ number is chalk and cheese.

That particular clip completely changed my perception of livestock numbers for the average aquarium and. Also, interestingly the habitat of cories differ vastly so I kind of not just recommend sand in a tank set up for cories as they appear to like sifting through fine gravel and leaf litter as well as IAL, alder cones and wood etc, gives them more stimulation to forage more imho.

Amazing how little clips like those can spark off debates and thoughts of fishkeepers when studied properly rather than just reading regurgitated basic information.
 
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Byron

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Your post has reminded me that I need to "correct" some of the data in that article. I initially questioned the accuracy of the author's assertion that the species Hyphessobrycon megalamphodus is actually red in the wild and the "black" fish in the hobby were at some point in the early 20th century developed through selective breeding. There was a considerably thorough discussion over a couple days on the characin site. The evidence presented by several well-known individuals proves without any question that the author's assertion is inaccurate. There is plenty of factual evidence from the mid to late 20th century that this species is without question black and not red in most if not all of its habitats aside from that in this video.

Nathan Hill of PFK entered the discussion at one point, and I intend to point this out to him, as we have corresponded previously; the issue had as I say slipped my mind, what with other things of late.

The question still remains if the "red" fish and the wild "black" fish are the same species, or one is a sub species, or they are two distinct species. Fernando Carvalho has collected specimens having more black colouration in this general habitat area, but Dr. Carvalho indicated to me that this phylogenetic analysis was needed.

There is no doubt but that the "red" form is in the subject habitat, and it shoals with H. eques, but the status of the "red" form and the "black" form needs to be investigated. And the "black" form is a wild species.
 
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Byron

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They look very similar to the Serpae Tetra.

Most of the fish in the video are Hyphessobrycon eques (Serpae), but if you look at certain portions of the video you can see a few different fish which are the "red" Black Phantom, so called. Dr. Carvalho assured us that his phylogenetic analysis of the "red" form proves it is not closely related to H. eques (Serpae).
 

Bruce Leyland-Jones

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Most of the fish in the video are Hyphessobrycon eques (Serpae), but if you look at certain portions of the video you can see a few different fish which are the "red" Black Phantom, so called. Dr. Carvalho assured us that his phylogenetic analysis of the "red" form proves it is not closely related to H. eques (Serpae).
Back to the genetics, I'd wonder at what point one species of tetra became another. :D
 

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Most of the authors / writers in PFK are in my humble opinion are greatly regarded especially those articles of Neal Monks and Nathon Hill.

It amazes me how some folks can gather great knowledge about certain species and research deeply to find origins, genus and sub species and so on and so forth, of course there are other hugely respected authors / writers in other areas of fishkeeping such as Diana Walstead and Tom Barr who have gathered and learned so much of their particular respective areas.

I can only hope to learn even a fraction of what those amazing folks have learned over their many years collectively so lets all keep giving out good information and links to great articles that are well worth reading and studying, hugely interesting hobby this fishkeeping lark is!
 

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